To Amjad Sabri: Qawwali Never Hurt Anybody

Source: dawn.com

Source: dawn.com

A few days ago when I landed in Karachi for the first time since Sabeen’s murder, the first thought that struck me was that now this city was without her presence. This drove me into a state of temporary depressed state until I had other things to take care of to offer a distraction.

But I had pictured the scene of gunmen approaching her car and opening fire on her. I wonder how it would have felt. You can only imagine the horror.

Who could imagine, I guess you could, but even expect to bear that the happy-go-lucky, jolly and constantly smiling Amjad Sabri would meet a similar fate. He was killed pretty much in the same fashion as Sabeen on June 22.

The TTP Hakimullah Mehsud group has expected responsibility. Most likely for the same supposedly blasphemous Qawwali that got Shaista Wahidi into trouble for allegedly disrespecting Ali and Fatima. Everyone acting on those calls for violence and considering holy figures more important than human life ought to be ashamed of their morals. Especially blasphemy public inquistors like Mubasher Lucman and the petition filers Shauhada Foundation.

Now, the people are speculating on who murdered Amjad Sabri, whether it is the Taliban or was it a political assassination, or just personal rivalry?

Who cares? At this point in time, so many including myself are in shock and pain.

Perhaps not grief, because it was not someone very close and dear to us. I know some who knew hin somewhat closely and are very heartbroken. But this is all you can think of. The dull pain never goes away, as in the case of Sabeen and so many more who have lost their lives to mindless violence in our cities.

What if the murderer gets caught? Just like the one who killed Sabeen got caught and confessed?

What if we have the satisfaction of having them hanged? Would that bring him back?

Source: Shia Multimedia Team

Source: SMT

I am not sure of anything, but I am sure of this.

For no reason at all, the lives of his family are ruined, especially those of his children.

His widow has already been hospitalized after collapsing of grief. I don’t even want to imagine what she would be going through. What her children would be going through.

They must be wondering what did their father do wrong to deserve this? Especially because they must be religious.

We were never a nation that killed Qawwals. What is the matter with us?

His father Ghulam Fareed Sabri Qawwal performed his masterful Tajdaar-e-Haram in s period fresh with the Islamization from the Zia regime. No threats came to him, despite the Islamization at the time.

Why do these Taliban-like militants on the loose targeting Sufi singers today?

Would Ghulam Fareed Sabri had even the remotest of ideas that his son would be slaughtered in a country that adored and valued his work so much?

For a country that is known for the world for Qawwali, we got to ask ourselves. When did we start hating it?

Does the puritanism of the faith of some have grown more important than messages of peace and love?

Qawwali never hurt anybody.

Every moment of existence is becoming difficult in this suffocating mess.

I do not watch Pakistani TV channels much, but always enjoyed his full of life presence whenever I caught him.

I particularly look forward to his performance in Coke Studio 9.

His voice will always remain with us.

May his soul rest in peace.

Advertisements

The War Against Islamist Terrorism is Alive

Source: asiadespatch.org

Source: asiadespatch.org

Just when we started to forget the problem even existed, after a great period of silence from our passionate religious zealots, we finally saw an attack on a major government official.

Following threats to his life, Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanzaada, along with several others, was killed in a suicide bomb in his native Attock village. The interior minister was a vocal critic of sectarian terrorism and had taken up the responsibility to take action against illegal seminaries, clerics guilty of free speech, and abuse of the “loudspeaker” for religious purposes. He was also undoubtedly a national hero.

This is a grim reminder that the enemy we are confronting is right here among us, instead of taking refuge across a distant border. It is also an absolute shame that we have the need to say these things over and over again, especially due to the fact that many people are simply not ready to accept that. Especially when you would find people who would even find an excuse for sectarian militancy and terrorism, such as the absence of enough religious laws.

The recent sad passing of Gen. Hameed Gul, only reminds people of his role during the regime of President Zia-ul-Haq, a man widely held responsible for the spread of Islamic militancy in the region to this degree. The problem is still very much alive after three decades. But is the problem really worsening?

We often complain about the lack of firmness from the law enforcement authorities, especially the political governments in order to combat Islamist extremism and sectarian terrorism.

With the likes of Shuja Khanzada, Salmaan Taseer, Mian Iftikhar, and Pervez Rasheed in our government bodies, and with the ongoing military operation against Islamist terrorists, there is always hope for improvement.

PML-N government has been consistently under fire for allegations of harboring sectarian extremists, especially those known to target the Shia community. It is commendable that the federal and provincial government tried to redeem itself of the allegations, whether mere partisan attacks or not, by taking steps to counter Islamist militancy and appointing the likes of Shuja Khanzada to take on such elements. The civil government and military desperately need to come together to keep up such measures.

Despite the forceful Zarb-e-Azab military operation, attacks such as the one on Khanzada are reflective of the fact that the enemy does not just reside in the tribal areas, or on the Afghan border. The enemy is not just the rebellious Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. The Islamist parties with pervasive presence all over Pakistan, fighting for unchecked and unregulated madrassahs are the part of the problem. It is their defense of their dangerous ideology is what we need to fight at the same time.

It is not just one rebel group that we need to take out, but the adherents of the dangerous ideology of Islamism. It is time to start curbing this so-called religious freedom which is constantly at work to jeopardize the lives and liberty of the citizens of this country.

What we need right now is developing a national consensus to counter the underestimated and largely ignored risk of Islamist militancy, which cannot be separated from the madrassahs, whether we like to face it or not. Unless we do so, we cannot do justice to the sacrifices made by brave leaders such as Shuja Khanzada, Salman Taseer and Mian Iftikhar.

Our religious and nationalist conservatives can’t stop talking about the foreign hand behind the terrorism in the country. But watching the footage of the collapsed house of Shuja Khanzada, I could not help but wonder for a minute why someone in their right mind would do something like that. Blowing yourself up is not easy, if you come to think of it for a minute. Money simply does not explain it.

The answer is clear. It is the death cult of Islamism which is brainwashing young and old to act this way, all in hope for redemption in the afterlife. It is ironic that the fear of death drives these lunatics to death itself. But while the foot soldiers of Islamism keep on getting wasted, it sadly only fuels the fervor of many more potential recruits looking to rid themselves of the worldly body of filth and to embrace an afterlife of pleasures.

Islamist terrorism is still strong, make no mistake about it. It will remain to be, unless this dangerous and cancerous ideology is not countered, because they are simply not giving up. It is just not an option for them, and frankly countering it should not be one for us. We need to recognize that it is the greatest threat to freedom and the civilized way of life in Pakistan, and around the world.

It is time we stop underestimating this threat.

It is time we support the government and the military to fight it, for the war against Islamist terrorism is still alive.

The suicide attack on Shuja Khanzada is a reminder that Islamist terrorists follow up on their threats.

It is time that we follow up on ours.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Another Attack on Our Way of Life

Source: A. Majeed/AFP/Dawn

Source: A. Majeed/AFP/Dawn

Today’s tragic terrorist attack on the premises of Army Public School in Peshawar is not an ordinary one. There has been a lot of thought behind it.

It only possibly targeted the families of the personnel of the Pakistan Armed Forces, because it is their children studying in that particular school, for most part. So the TTP terrorists probably thought about sparing the civilians in their own way by selecting that school.

Revenge for the military operation. We’ll take your kids away.

Makes sense.

But children… Even the Taliban would not lower themselves to such disgrace. That’s too low to be human.

What sort of faithful people could engage in such a heinous action?

Well, so much for wishful thinking. And if you really, really thought so, you have a considerably good opinion about them.

That it is not just an attack on school children, and there is nothing shocking about the Taliban carrying it out. They have only proved how cruel they are, and we have only come to learn how vulnerable we are.

They are perfectly capable of it. They have been at it before, exploding schools.

Though there is one thing that we must not forget, and which most Pakistanis are not even going to consider. Because they still refuse to acknowledge that Islamism and the Taliban are the enemies.

This war must be fought.

It is time to decide whether to keep on fighting, or to hide behind the world of comfortable lies of Islamism. It is time to ask ourselves how strongly have we stood by our military for fighting these terrorists.

Were we just as enthusiastic as we would be in a war against India?

Would we ever recognize Islamism, not just the Taliban, as our enemies?

This is no ordinary terrorist attack on a children’s school.

This is another attack on our way of life.

If you would not fight for that, what else is there to worry about?

Malice, Morality & Malala: or Adding Insult to Injury

Source: AP/The Hindu

I write this with a heavy heart, with disgust and with a sense of insecurity and fear.

As you all know, teenage education activist Malala Yousafzai had been shot by the Taliban in her native Swat on October 9, 2012 to the shock of not only the entire nation, but the whole world. Right now she is struggling her way back to life and hopefully making good progress. However, I am seriously concerned for her well being in the future as she is feared to have suffered brain damage, but that’s not confirmed. Hopefully not.

After this sad incident, amid spontaneous sympathy and genuine grief, all kinds of genuine heartlessness, cruelty and the usual idiocy emerged. I am talking about the organized campaign and the spontaneous reactions aimed at undermining the tragedy of the shooting of Malala Yousafzai and maligning her character as an activist.

You can find all kinds of people coming up and linking the event with their political agenda and trying to prove something completely unrelated.

So, you’re upset about Malala, right? How come you don’t make the same kind of fuss about hundreds of little children who have died in the drone attacks?

I am so sorry for not outraging as much about the hundreds of little children who have died in the drone attacks, but what in the world drone attacks have to do with Malala and what does grieving for her have to do with grieving for the children dying in drone attacks? Why is grieving for a girl that you knew as a public figure wrong and how that negates the feelings you have for the people dying in drone attacks?

So is speaking out for the attack on her wrong just because you think people are not condemning drone attacks? What kind of morality is that, by any of the twisted standards we have in this world of ours? Maybe just because the whole world is sympathizing with her, she must be an evil person, right? The ever-obnoxiously-eloquent Ayaz Amir puts it like this.

I mean what in the world are people trying to prove over here. Yes, drone attacks (which are, mind you, bombings, which are bombings and are lethal, let them be by manned aircraft or not) are atrocious for both innocent and terrorists alike, but those events are completely irrelevant to the point that Malala Yousafzai was an innocent little child who was brutally shot. I literally felt as if someone had shot my own daughter, but you don’t have to feel the pain to imagine if the girl was your “daughter” really. I regret even mentioning that word here. Though I cannot see it or put it any other way.

Actually the reaction from many of the hyper-nationalist and self-proclaimed exclusively-patriotic and religious right and center-right (with sincere apologies to the sane center-rightists) of the country, and especially the religious leaders and “scholars”, is nothing more than a dirty display of Groupthink, with hurt pride turning into venomous damnation of Malala and of all the sympathy for her. It is certainly not without a reason.

They do actually consider Malala and everything she represents as a threat. A threat to their religious-nationalist identity. A threat to the Pakhtun Islamism, a threat to the Islamic clergy, a threat to the Taliban and a threat to their cult of oppressing women into oblivion, ignorance and obscurantism, depriving them a right to education and a happy and free life.

Islamists like the Taliban are more aware than your average moderate Pakistani Muslim what great a threat secular education can possibly be to the religious dogma and faith. The reason is that education on scientific basis can help children grow to become freethinkers and use reason and scientific method, which could possibly eliminate the superstition and the supernatural from their lives.

Oh yes, was she really innocent of all her charges? The razor-sharp wit of Wus’atullah Khan so sarcastically puts why she was not. Even Nicholas Kristof sees it this way.

I agree that she is not innocent of her charges. I am proud that she is not. She was doing something even the most outspoken of liberal and secular public figures were and are afraid to do. She was propagating, supporting, endorsing and practically ensuring secular education to the children of her land, especially girls. This is something remarkable considering how the Taliban love to blow up girls’ schools and how they consider education to women an evil.

This is also remarkable because not long ago the Taliban and allied Islamist militant groups had taken over the control of Swat and enforced their Shariah there for the time. The Pakistani state had briefly lost control over the territory until a military operation was carried out to regain it. So it takes some courage to take on the Taliban not far from their lair.

This is precisely why the Taliban targeted her and their spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan has vowed to attack her again if she survives this one. Actually, the Taliban specifically mentioned that she was attacked because she was “secular-minded”. This is the reason why many in the rest of the supposedly moderate Pakistan think that attacking her was justified, even though they cannot or could not do it themselves.

So much for those who think that though shooting her is wrong, she does not deserve all this attention and sympathy. There are even those who think that shooting her was completely justified. Those who side with the Taliban. Therefore, I find this incident, not polarizing, but cleansing, in terms of who is who in our society. If we still cannot see who our enemies are as Pakistanis, then we never will.

Source: Amnesty International

While I think about Malala Yousafzai this day, what overwhelms me more than anything else and what really puts me to shame is her bravery and her clarity. Because what she is demanding is so obviously and unmistakably right and worth defending and not worth giving up, even for a second, just like breathing, eating and drinking. And stepping down and giving that up just because your life is under threat is just clearly wrong reasoning, isn’t it? But are we fighting that hard?

Either we are stupid or Malala is.